MOUNT CARMEL — Hawkins County EMS and the Mount Carmel Fire Department are launching a partnership Monday intended to provide faster response times to local residents suffering medical emergencies.

The MCFD will operate a first responder program with state certified personnel responding to medical emergencies within the city in conjunction with Hawkins County EMS. That service will be available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Wayne Elam, the HCEMS cardiac and first response coordinator, said the partnership of these two agencies will increase the number of skilled medical personnel responding to 911 medical emergencies within the town limits.

“That will be a simultaneous dispatch between EMS, the fire department, and the Mount Carmel Police Department will also be notified,” Elam said. “For any cardiac arrest that occurs inside the city, that will increase the number of AEDs (automated external defibrillators) being dispatched to the scene and the personnel being dispatched to the scene. The initial outcome is the increased survival rate of these patients.”

Previously, EMS would respond to medical calls and, if after they arrived found they needed assistance, the fire department would be dispatched to help.

Under the new plan, with both being dispatched, whichever agency is closer will be able to begin lifesaving procedures more quickly.

“This is going to supply medically trained personnel faster,” Elam added.

HCEMS Medical Director Dr. George Testerman endorsed the program as a potential lifesaver.

“It’s going to get more resources to the scene of anybody who is in medical distress,” Testerman said. “As everybody knows, seconds count during a heart attack, and if somebody is in a cardiac arrest or a cardiac situation, we can get defibrillation done quicker and save lives.”

MCFD Chief Jason Byington said the new program won’t stress his manpower because he was already employing a day shift with staff who are properly trained.

“My staff that I have here during that time are all state certified — either EMTs, paramedics or first responders — so we’ll just be using those medical skills now along with our fire and emergency skills,” Byington said.

Byington noted that during the off hours his volunteers will be dispatched to medical emergencies as well, and they are all certified to perform CPR and use AEDs.

HCEMS Director Jason Murrell noted that this is the first partnership of this type in Hawkins County, but it is a program that has been discussed and planned for years.

“It’s always important to try to reduce any delays in patient care as much as possible,” Murrell said. “This program has been worked on for several years, and it’s finally been approved.

Murrell said he hopes the Mount Carmel partnership becomes a successful prototype for other municipalities and the county departments that may want to form similar partnerships in the future.

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